Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "Tiananmen massacre," June 6, 2009

The war fund

Congress passed the first spending bill with strong Republican support in May, a war spending supplemental.

What's in it:

  • A healthy $85 billion for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan;
  • aid to countries around the world, like Israel and Egypt;
  • $900 million for Gaza and the West Bank for redevelopment of Palestinian territories;
  • nearly $2 billion in aid to Pakistan; 0 and $2 billion to fight the global flu pandemic.

What's not in it:

  • The House and Senate denied the president funding to close Guantanamo Bay until he presents a "comprehensive plan" on the "proposed disposition" of the military prison. President Obama had requested $80 million to close the facility.

Notre Dame

As President Barack Obama greeted a crowd of 12,000 at the University of Notre Dame's commencement ceremony in South Bend, Ind., a quieter ceremony unfolded across campus where two dozen seniors gathered at the Catholic university's outdoor Grotto, refusing to attend their own graduation. They said a Catholic school shouldn't honor a pro-abortion politician who opposes traditional Catholic teaching. Obama addressed the abortion controversy directly: "I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away." He said both sides could agree that this is "a heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make" and called for programs to help reduce unintended pregnancies and promote adoption. Police arrested dozens of people who entered the school's private grounds to protest Obama's May 17 visit. Many pro-life seniors attended the ceremony with nearly 2,900 graduates, but the two dozen wearing caps and gowns in the Grotto instead heard a Catholic priest offer a prayer and call the graduates' names while family members looked on.

Marriage debate

Hispanic Christians rallied to protest a bill legalizing same-sex marriage May 17 as the New York legislature debated the measure. "There's no human law that can deteriorate divine law," said Kittim Silva, board member for Radio Vision Cristiana International, which sponsored the rally along with the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization. Demonstrators played Dominican music and carried bilingual signs: "Un Hombre and Una Mujer = Voluntad de Dios. One Man and One Woman = God's Will." The New York State Assembly passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage the week before, sending it to the New York State Senate, where Democrats hold a slender majority and Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz leads vocal opposition to the bill. New Yorkers are evenly divided on the issue of same-sex marriage, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, although almost two-thirds support same-sex civil unions. A similar bill passed the New York State Assembly in 2007 but died in the Senate.

Coke side of life & taxes

Congressional lawmakers are looking at taxing sodas and other sugary drinks as a way to pay for pending health-care reform, according to a recent Senate Finance Committee report saying the move will help fight obesity-a big driver of the nation's escalating health-care costs. Soft drink industry officials hope the soda tax quickly falls flat: "It's an overreach when government uses the tax code to tell people what to eat and drink," Kevin Kean with the American Beverage Association told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Flu, cont.'d

As of May 20, 26 schools in New York City were closed due to an increase in flulike illnesses possibly linked to swine flu, and the virus claimed the life of a 55-year-old assistant principal at a Queens public school. But so far, victims of the virus in the United States are people with underlying health conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported over 5,700 confirmed or probable swine flu cases and over 200 hospitalizations. Eight people in the United States have died, each with underlying health conditions, including lung and heart conditions. As of May 20, the World Health Organization reported 10,243 cases around the globe, including 80 deaths.

Missile launch

U.S. defense experts confirmed that Iran test-fired a new advanced missile May 20. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced the launch of the solid-fuel Sajjil-2 surface-to-surface missile with a range of about 1,200 miles, capable of reaching Israel and U.S. bases in the Middle East. The announcement came just weeks before Iran's presidential election and two days after President Barack Obama met with Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu and declared a readiness to seek deeper sanctions against Tehran. Experts believe continued provocation from Ahmadinejad, who has promised to wipe Israel off the map, could prompt a preemptive strike by Israel on Iranian nuclear facilities.

Pakistan

The State Department started a fundraising campaign via text messaging for the UN Refugee Agency working in Pakistan, along with pledging $110 million in additional aid to Pakistan May 19. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the funds will be directed toward 2 million people who have fled their homes in the wake of the Taliban takeover of the Swat Valley and other areas northeast of Islamabad and the Pakistani Army's assault to drive out the militants. The Taliban is increasingly pressuring Christians and other religious minorities in Swat to live according to Islamic customs. Christians try to blend in with Muslim residents by growing beards and wearing Islamic attire. Mano Rumalshah, Bishop of Peshawar, told Barnabas Fund he visited one church in Bannu, North West Frontier Province, desecrated by the Taliban last month. "Save Christianity in Pakistan or it will be eradicated," he said.

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